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a 1s AND cans whether what Dionysius ‘Theax once thought was the euth about Greck isthe truth and the whole cuth aboutall langage andall languages. Do we know, then, chat thre wil prove to bbe any ultimate boundary between ‘logical grammat’ and a revised and enlarged Gramnr? ln the history ofhuman inquiry plilosophy has the place ofthe inital ental sun, seminal and tumultuous: ffom time to time it dows of some portion of itself to take station as a science, a planet, cool and Wel eg Iated, progeessing steadily cowards distant final state. This happened long ago a the bieth of mathematic, and agin a the birth of physics: omlyin the ast cencury we have witness the same process once again, slow and a the time almost ime perceptible, in the birth ofthe science of mathematical loge, through the joine labours of philosophers and mathematicians. Isienot posible thar the next century may se the birt, ehrough the join labours of philosophers, grammarians, and numerous other student of lmguage, of a truc and comprehensive sist ‘af language? Then we shall have rid ourselves of one more part ‘of philosophy (there wil sill be plenty lef) inthe only way ‘we ever ean get rid of piloophy, by kicking ie ups. 10 PERFORMATIVE UTTERANCES You are more chan entitled not to know what the word 'per= formative’ means. Ie is a new word and an ugly word, and pethaps it docs not mean anything very much, But at any rate there is one thing in its favour, it is not a profound word. 1 remember once when I had been talking on this subject that somebody afterwards sid: “You know, [haven't the least idea ‘what he means, unless i could be that he simply means what hae says. Well, that is what I should like to mean, Let us consider first how thie ffi arises. We have not got to go very far back in the history of philosophy to find philo- sophers assuming more or less as a matter of course that the sole busines, the sole interesting business, of any utterance— that is, of anything we say—-is to be true or at least false. OF ‘course they had always known that there are other kinds of things which we say-—things like imperatives, ehe expressions ‘of wishes, and exclamations—some of which had even been clasified by grammarians, though it wasn’ perhaps too easy to tell always which was which, But still philosophers have assumed chat the only things that they are interested in are utterances which report fats or which desribe situations truly ‘ot falely. In recent times this kind of approach has been uestioned-—in two stages, I think. First ofall people began t0 say:"Well,ifthese things are true or fae it ought tobe posible to decide which they ate, and if we can't decide which they ate they aren't any good but arc, in short, nonsense’, And this ew approach did a great deal of good; a great miany things 4 PURFORMATIVE UTTERANCES Which probably are nonsense were found to be such. Is not the ease, I think, that all kinds of nonsense have been ade- ‘quately casified yet, and perhaps some things have been d= missed as nonsense which really are not; butstill his movement, the verification movemeat, was, in its way, excelen However, we then come tothe second stage. Afce all, we sect some limits to dhe amoune of nonsense that we talk, or least the amount of nonsense that we are prepared w admit we talk; and s0 people began to ask whether afc all some of chose things which, treated as statements, were in danger of being dismissed as nonsense did after all really set out to be staoments at all. Mighm’t they perhaps be intended not to report facts but to influence people in this way or tha, (of to lee off seam in this way oF that? Or perhaps at any rate some elements in these utterances performed such functions, or, for example, drew attention in some way (without acral reporting it) to some important featre of the circumstances in which the uterance was being made. On these lines people have now adopted anew slogan the slogan of the diferen ses of language’. The old approach, the old statemental approach, js sometimes called even a fallacy the descriptive fallacy. Certainly thee area great many uses of language. It’ rather 4 pity that people are apt to invoke a new use of lnguage whenever they fel s0 inclined, to help them out ofthis, tht, fr the other well-known philosophical tangle; we need noe ‘of a framework in which to discuss these nes of language; and abo I think we should not despair too easily and tlk, as people ate apt to do, about the infinite uses of Language. Philosophers ‘will do this when they have liste as many, let ws say, a5 seven= teen; but even if chere were something like ten thowsal wes ‘of language, surely we could lise them al in time, This, afer all isno larger than the number of species of beetle hae ento- ‘mologists have taken the pains to list. But whatever the defects of ether ofthese movements—the ‘verification’ movement or the ‘ase of language’ movement—atany rate they haveeffected, nobody could deny, a great revolution in philosophy and, | thing that I say as a report of the pe © ceremony, factually perform the christen Sona at nae ge ge PERFORMATIVE UTTERANCES as ‘many would ay, the most sluary in its history. (No, if you come to think of i,» very immodest cat.) Now itis one such sor of we of lngunge that I want to ere. want to dsessa kind of erance which looks cment and grammatically, suppose, would be dasse asa statement, whichis not nonsensical, and yet snot true oF fake. These are nor going tobe ueerances whic contain curious verbs like ‘could? or ‘might, or cuious words like ‘good, which many philosophers regard nowadays simply as danger signal. They wil be perfectly straightforward wtteraness, with ondinary vetbs in the fist person singular presen indicative active, and yet we shal sce at once that they coulda’ possibly be true or fake. Furthermore, if person makes an uterance ‘ofthis sort we should say that he is doing something rater than rercly sapig something. ‘This may sound a liede odd, bu the examples Tshll give wil in ce not be odd tall, ad may ‘even scm decidedly dll Here are cree or fur. Suppose, fot ‘example, tha in the course of a marriage ceremony I ay, 38 people will, T do’—(. take this woman «0 be my lawful | wedded wife). Or again, suppose that I eead on yout toe ad say ‘L apologize’. Or again, suppose thae I have the borte of champagne in my hand and sty ‘T name this ship the Queen | Blizabedi’. Or suppose T say "I bet you sixpence it will rain tomorrow’. In all hese cases i would be absurd to regard the mance ofthe action ‘which i undoubiedly donee action of beting, or chiste ing oF apologizing. We should say rather ehat, in saying what 10, Lactually perform that action. When I say name tit ship’ the Queen Elizabeth do not describe the christening and when Ty ‘Ido! Ge. ake this woman to be my lawtul wedded wi), Tam not eporing on a marziage, lam indulging in i Now these kinds of weterance are the ones that we call ormatve wreranecs. "This is ather an ugly word, and a new ‘word, bit there sms to be no. word akeady in existence 10 | do the job, The nearest approach that I can think ofis the word 26 PERFORMATIVE UTTERANCES “operative as used by lawyers, Lawyers when talking about instruments will distinguish beeween the preamble, which os tiecroratmer i SLA pee b eel ed ‘on the other hand the operative part—the part of it which acral perfor the leg act whichis the puro of he Jnstument to perform. So the word ‘operative’ i-very near to svhot we wan“ give and bequeath my watch vo my brother” ‘would be an operative clause and isa performative utterance However, the word ‘operative’ has other uses, anit seems preferabletohavea word specially desigued for theuse we want Now at this point one might protest, pechaps even with sone alarm hat seem 10 be sagan in main i simply saying a few words, that just saying a few words is tnarying, Well dat cern ino the cae The words have to be sid in the appropriate circumstances, and this isa matte that will come up again late. But the one thing we must not suppose is that what is needed in addition eo the saying of the ‘words in such cases the performance of some intra spit act, of which the words then are to be the report I's very easy to slip into this view at lease in dificult, portentous eas, though pethaps not so easy in simple cases like apologizing, Ia the case of promising —for example, proinise to be thre tomorrow'—it's very cay to think thae the utterance is simply the outward and visible (hats, verbal) sign ofthe pesformance cof some inward spiritual act of promising, and his view has certainly heen expresed in many classic places. There isthe case of Euripides’ Hippolytws, who ad ‘My congue swore, ‘ut my heare did not™-perhaps it shouldbe ‘mind’ o “spit rather than ‘hear’, bue at any rate some kind of backstage arate, Now it clear from this sort of example that, if we sip ino thinking that such uteranes ate reports, cue or fase, of the performance of inward and sirtual acts, we open aloope Jhoke to perjarers and welshers and bigamists and so on, 9 that | there ace disadvantages in being excessively solemn in this way. It ie beter, perhaps, to stick eo the old saying chat our word i ‘our bond. | examples of some i PERFORMATIVE UTTERANCES 7 However, although these uterances donot themselves report facts and are not themselves true oF fase, saying these things does very often imply chat cetain things are te and it fase, in some sense at least of that rather woolly word imply’. For example, when I say t do take this woman to be my lawfil wedded wif’, or some other formulain the marriage ceremony, I do imply that Pm not aleeady matted, with wife living, sane, undivorced, and the rest of it. But sil itis very important to realize that to imply that something or other is tue, is not at all the same as saying something whichis true iell "These performative utterances are not tue or fale, then. Bue they do suffer from certain disabilities of their own. They can fil to come off in special ways, and tha it what Fwant to ‘consider next. The various ways in which 4 performative tmterance may be unsatisfactory we eal, for the sake of a name, the infictes; and an infeicty aises—thatis 1 say, che utter ance is unhappy-af certain rules, transparently simple rules, are broken, I will tion some of these rules and then give ngements, Fins of all, it is obvious that the conventional procedure which by our utterance we are purporting to use must actually ist In the exampks given here this procedute will be a verbal one, a verbal procedure for marrying or giving or whatever it may be; but itshould be borne in mind that there are many non-verbal procedures by which we ean perform exactly the same acts as we perform by these verbal means, I's worth remembering too that a great many of the things we do are at least in patt of this conventional kind. Philosophers at least are too apt to assume that an action is always in the last resort “the making of a physical movement, whercas is ust, at “east in part, 4 ter of convention, ‘The firse then, thae the convention invoked must exist and be aceepted. And the second rule, ako a very obvious | one, is that the circumstances in which we purport to invoke this procedure must be appropriate for its invocation, Hf this } i